Sunny Sweeney played the stage in front of the Grand Ole Opry in June 2007. If she's not invited to the Grand Ole Opry in the next three years, I'll be very surprised.
Watching an artist develop into a big star is something special. It's like watching a baseball player get drafted, go through Rookie League, Single-A, Double-A and on to the Big Leagues.
The great thing about it is that you always have a story to tell. And I have a good-hearted memory that I tell anyone who's riding in the car with me when a Sunny Sweeney song comes on the radio.
I'd just moved to Texas, and Sweeney was playing the coolest venue in town, the Firehouse Saloon as the opening act for the Randy Rogers Band's sold-out CD release party in September 2008.
The show was jam-packed for Randy and his band, but the crowd was sparse in the club when Sweeney was singing her traditional country tunes.
She wanted more people to the stage, so she put shots from the bar for 5-6 of the fans closest to the stage, including me.
It's not often that you can claim that a country singer with a tune on the Top 40 charts bought you a shot at a bar. But it happened.
A year earlier, I met Sweeney at the Big Machine Booth at CMA Music Festival. I saw a couple of her shows there, and she was super traditional. She also had the outlaw-vibe, wearing Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard T-Shirts and wearing her unkempt.
The outlaw attitude, ultra-traditional sound resonated with fans, such as myself, but Sweeney had to pull a Sara Evans if she ever wanted to enjoy success outside of Texas.
She retained her traditional sound, but modified it enough for country radio to find it acceptable. Evans, back in 1996, debuted with a wardrobe straight out of the 1940's, but was contemporary by the next album and the rest, as they say, is history.
Sweeney's debut album, "Heartbreaker's Hall of Fame", will always be a favorite of mine, but it's nice to see that she's keeping it country, while drawing a larger audience.
I mean, "From A Table Away," is just as traditional as anything coming out of Nashville.
The rest of the music is strong, and squarely in the traditional vein.
"Amy" is probably the best song. She's singing to the woman's who's husband she cheated with. It's probably the best song of that theme, since Sweeney's fellow East Texan, Lee Ann Womack recorded "The Fool" back in 1997. Wow, I can't believe it's been that long.
Speaking of East Texas female country singers, Miranda Lambert's new trio, Pistol Annie's debuted yesterday
It's rare to see an artist in their prime record as a member of a trio.
One good thing about the trio is that it gives Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley a platform for their solo careers.
Monroe is excellent, and her song, "Hank's Cadillac," should have been a radio hit. But I guess the Programming Directors thought otherwise, and I only know about Presley's music through PA's.
"Hell on Heels" sets the tone right away with the group's outlaw image. Good harmonies and quality solo vocals.
The songs are very folksy and real. It's a good opportunity for a trio of country artists to have fun and sing music that they like.
"Boys From The South" name-checks several states, and that should be a big hit with fans, and "Trailer for Rent" is a fun song,
Hopefully, this trio will stay together and record a few more albums.